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Gig Review: Coldplay, Manchester, June 4th

Since being signed in 1998 at a small pub in Manchester, it’s safe to say that Coldplay have become one of the biggest bands on the planet, much to the dismay of their haters. Now, on tour for what may be their last album, this still appears to be the case, with the tour being hosted by some of the largest stadiums in the world. This includes Manchester’s Etihad Stadium, a concert which managed to (almost) fill the stadium’s sixty thousand capacity. 

a head of full of d

Two supporting acts were invited by Coldplay onto the tour: 19 year old Canadian singer Alessia Cara, and London-born Lianne La Havas. An hour after doors opened, Alessia arrived, wearing her admiration and thanks for Coldplay on her sleeve. With similar songs to Coldplay, her set consisted of breakup songs and a surprisingly honest tune about feeling awkward at a house party. Whilst a little cliche-ridden – a song about hating your self image was dedicated to the girls at the concert, something that Alessia quickly backtracked on by dedicating it to the guys once she’d heard the possible sexism of doing so – neither her energy on stage or vocal power could be denied. And then came Lianne who needs little introduction, thanks to her award-winning debut album Is Your Love Big Enough? Having never seen Lianne live, I was impressed by her swagger, soul and efforts to keep the audience entertained before Coldplay made their debut. Acting as timekeeper (frequently she shouted how long it was until they were on) and an entertainer, she helped the audience to take part and sing along whenever possible.

The stage was vibrantly decorated with an array of flowers and colourful designs, quite like new album A Head Full of Dreams’ cover art. However, it also acted as a screen throughout the concert, projecting close ups of the band on stage, quite like the ‘windows’ either side of the stage did; video clips from music videos and a tribute to the late Muhammad Ali; and finally clips of fans making requests for songs as selected from Instagram. The sheer amount of functionality provided by the stage was impressive and made for a great artistic compliment to the band’s two and a half hour performance.

Okay, enough flattery: did the iconic British four piece still have their flare at last weekend’s gig?

The band’s use of staging during the concert prevented the gig from becoming stale. Dynamic frontman Chris Martin made it his mission to sprint down the walkway which led out from the main stage. The other band members, namely guitarist Jonny Buckland, drummer Will Champion and bassist Guy Berryman, also ventured out from the main stage. They joined Chris on the stage at the end of the walkway for various songs, including a concert exclusive mix of ‘Lovers in Japan’ and an additional third stage near the back of the stadium, to much confusion when the band appeared from nowhere after a fake-out finish.

Overall, the setlist was great. Coldplay stuck to their guns, performing hugely popular tunes ‘Yellow’ and ‘Viva La Vida’ (the latter steadily becoming the crowd’s football chant upon exit) and were not afraid to take risks. This included playing some lesser-known tracks including ‘See You Soon’ from their second EP and debut album Parachutes, which was met by a calm and welcoming reception from the crowd; an Ibiza-style outro to hit single ‘Paradise’. Whilst ‘Paradise’ may be considered the final nail in the coffin for fans who hoped for Coldplay to remain a miserablist rock band, it had the stadium dancing with joy. A cover of the late David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ was again met with a good reception, even if Bowie would probably be rolling in his grave, having previously rejected a collaboration with Coldplay.

However, some of their more tame tracks were less successful, namely ‘Magic’, which was sadly a little dull live and not reinvented such as some new melodies sung by Chris Martin on numbers such as ‘Clocks’. The result? A tepid song without many fans singing along (not even myself, a keen Coldplay fan).

There’s an aspect of the concert I’d like to discuss: the Xylobands. These are wristbands (that could be mistaken for Happy Meal toys, sorry Coldplay) which accompanied the Mylo Xyloto tour a few years ago. As predicted by a critic’s review of the album in The Guardian at the time, they would serve as visual spectacles for moments including “We’ll be glowing in the dark” (‘Charlie Brown’), done by the band emitting an LED light of varying colours depending on the song played. The wristbands were used as ‘visual aids’ for songs including ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ where they projected a white light, and a yellow light in the powerful but intimate performance of ‘Fix You’. While they added to the aesthetics, I wish the band had come up with a new concept (a ‘Dreamband’, perhaps?) instead of relying on old ‘toys’. Wristbands are hardly a staple of Coldplay’s image. A shame, given the innovative staging.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkJJ9n4rhq2TytH-hk5JQ7Q
The stage lights up during ‘Sky Full of Stars’

There has been frequent press coverage and interviews with the band stating they will part ways after the tour. One can’t blame them, having performed as a group for almost twenty years; however, this did little to water down the performance. Whilst somewhat the case with Jonny, who appeared a little static and gloomy at times, perhaps this is just Jonny’s look. He soon went on to crack a few smiles, joining the brimming enthusiasm of the rest of the band. Guy was genuinely smiling for most of the gig; Will, whose enthusiasm shined through on the mixing deck and countless percussion instruments; and finally Chris, who cared so much about the performance, laughing joyfully when his cues from ‘The Scientist’ were met from a boisterous sound from the audience.

All of what made the concert great came together in a wonderful mesh with the final number, ‘Up&UP’, fittingly the final number to A Head Full of Dreams: innovative use of staging and projection, the Xylobands, fireworks and a spirit and warmth projected by a band who, quite simply, love what they do. As the concert came to a close, the sound of Will’s ‘Oooos’ from ‘Viva La Vida’ filled the night-lit streets of Manchester. Even if this marks the end of Coldplay, their unforgettable performances will mean that the band live on in our hearts. Bravo, Coldplay.